If you are not working in Bissau, life can begin to feel stagnant veeeeery quickly. At least this is what my friend Bruno said. And I would undoubtedly agree with him. If you don’t have something to keep yourself busy, you life easily becomes a routine of eating showering and using the internet (If you have access to it).
After much debate and consideration, Bruno decided it was time to say goodbye to Guinea-Bissau, mostly due to the reasons mentioned above. He got here maybe 2 weeks after I did, though I only met him 2 months ago, and is now heading to Morrocco for 2 months before going back to Brazil. (He is very fortunate to have the parents he has to support his travel whims.) But he said after 4 or 5 years of studying in Brazil he wants to come back to set up his own business and school in Bissau. None of us believe he’ll ever come back, but none of us believed him when he said he was leaving for morocco either. Only time will tell.
When he told me he would be leaving and I took the news in stride. New about something that is going to happen generally doesn’t hit me until it happens. And I didn’t realize the impact his absence would have on me.
We had created a cool little community of friends. Bruno was always free to hang out, so I regularly called him after work to grab a bite or a drink. Bruno had a friend named Josa who he had met at the church he was volunteering at. Once Bruno stopped volunteering for the church and moved out Josafa would come by Bruno’s house when he was done teaching music lessons. But since Josafa is living at a church he has a curfew, so once it got dark he usually made his way home.
Then there is Rui, a Portuguese guy who has been here for the past year working as an overseer and trainer to elementary school teachers in a small city called Buba. Rui just moved to Bissau a month ago and in the last 3 weeks began moving into a house near Bruno’s. He quickly got plugged in with us.
Franciso is a Guinean who also lives in Bissau Velho and comes to hang out with us often. He is an interesting character to say the least and much to my annoyance was emfatuated with me.
Anyways, it was normal for us all to go and hang out at a restaurant and share stories. Everyone has a interesting up-bringing, very different personalities and very different cultural valu
So it was as if he with no work life had the time to create a social life. Us with only a work life used him as a means to a social life.
On the 7th of June he bought his flight for Morroco which was scheduled to leave the following day. None of us believed it even though he kept saying he bought his ticket. A one way ticket to Morrocco from Guinea-Bissa is 500,000fcfa!! That’s 1,000 USD!! And a flight to Portugal, which is even further North is half the price. So he bought a ticket for Portugal and just planned to get off the plane at his layover in Morrocco. Haha! That’s how we beat the system!
I guess I’m writing all of this to explain how deep of connections and friendships are made abroad. Not that it doesn’t happen in the US, but situations here, learning together about the host country and learning from each other and our different cultures make for a special kind of bond.
I told one of my Guinean friends that Bruno was leaving and he shuttered at his name. ( I think this is mostly because he was jealousy, but that’s a separate issue) He didn’t understand how we got to connect so quickly. I tried to explain that foreigners are like cousins. You might not know them very well, but you still have some kind of connection. In this case the commonality is not family, but the experience. As a foreigner you have a different worldview from the people who live here, and not that your worldview matches another foreigners, but it’s the fact that you are learning and experiencing something new and different together. I have many Guinean friends, but I see why I needed other foreigner friends too, and how it is easy for those bonds to become deep very quickly.
So we went out to eat the last supper at a Buffet that is like nothing else in Bissau. I felt like I had been transported back to a middle upscale restaurant in the states. We ate and laughed and talked without ever letting the conversation get too deep or acknowledging the fact that Bruno was leaving. After the meal (which was amazing btw) we stopped by Papaloca, another restaurant, to grab a drink and wait for Bruno’s ride to the airport to come. Bruno’s flight was at 3 am, but had a midnight check-in. Rui and I went with him all the way to the airport and waited outside while he checked in his things so we could say a proper goodbye. I say silly things when the time comes to say goodbye. Rui’s goodbye was a lot more suave. In retrospect I should have just seconded what he said. Lol
On the taxi ride home Rui and I talked about making plans to go see him for the World cup. I kept saying it hadn’t hit me yet that he was leaving, but I knew the next morning I would realize it when I couldn’t call him to hang out.
Bruno was our social hub. I anticipate(d) a great drop in my social life after he left. I knew all the others through Bruno, so it will be strange without him. Conversely, thanks to him, I have met some great people who will also be here for another year or so, and we have begun a friendship that can only grow deeper.